Original Anthropometry Paper of elite athletes

DOI: 10.5604/20831862.1077552


AUTHORS: Brunkhorst L.1, Kielstein H.2 1

Clinic for Paediatric Nephrology, Hepatology and Metabolic Disorders and Institute for Functional and


Applied Anatomy, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Faculty of Medicine, Halle (Saale), Germany

Biol. Sport 2013;30:269-273

Accepted for publication 26.08.2013

Reprint request to: Heike Kielstein Institut für Anatomie und Zellbiologie Große Steinstraße 52, D-06097 Halle (Saale), Germany email: heike.kielstein@medizin. uni-halle.de

ABSTRACT: Anthropometric characteristics of athletes are considered to be an important determinant of success in sport. The aim of the present study was to compare several anthropometric parameters and subjective characteristics of professional elite triathletes with anthropometric profiles of professional cyclists and sportive students. In total 93 volunteers (21 male and female triathletes, 26 male cyclists and as a control group 46 male and female students) participated in this study. Eight different anthropometric parameters were measured and a five-page questionnaire containing 35 general questions had to be completed. Interestingly, there were no significant differences between the arm span, the lengths of the lower limb and the circumference of waist and hip between male triathletes and cyclists. As expected, the athletes had significantly lower heart rates and lower weights as compared to the controls. Further results showed that male cyclists had a higher BMI, larger thighs and were taller as compared to the male triathletes. The present study could not evaluate specific anthropometric characteristics as predictive factors of performance in elite athletes. Thus, individual successful performance is linked to discipline and talent rather than to a specific anthropometric profile. KEY WORDS: anthropometry, triathletes, cyclists, heart rate

INTRODUCTION Anthropometric characteristics of an individual athlete are considered

to performance and even to be used as a predictive factor for all dis-

to be an important determinant of success in sport. In German sport

tance runners. Sanchez-Munoz et al. [7] found no differences in ten-

history, especially in the autocratic sports policy during the com-

nis playing high ranked or low ranked boys, but in girls with wider

munistic regimen of the former German Democratic Republic, an-

humoral and femoral breadth and taller height. Furthermore, a compact

thropometric measurements were used to define physiological char-

and robust physique seems to be positive for female canoe and kayak

acteristics for specific sports, e.g. athletics, weight lifting or cycling,

paddlers [9]. Most studies measured more anthropometric data than

and thereby to select promising young athletes for international com-

they could relate to the performance of the athletes. Only a few an-


thropometric parameters were found useful for talent identification

Various reports exist trying to show the influence of anthropomet-

and development programmes in several sport disciplines.

ric properties on exercise performance in different sports, e.g. swim-

Triathlon is a multisport discipline consisting of sequential swim-

ming [1], middle and long distance running [2-6], tennis [7], row-

ming, cycling (drafting allowed) and running. The contemporary

ing [8], kayaking [9], or cycling [10, 11], and also for many team

World Championship series and the World Cup series are held over

sports (e.g. rugby [12], football [13, 14] and soccer [15-17]). Zam-

a short distance comprising 1.5 km swimming, 40 km cycling and

pagni et al. [1] reported that hand-grip strength, age and height in

10 km running (in contrast to the ironman-distance which is held

short distance swimming, and age and height in long distance swim-

over a long distance with 3.8 km swimming, 180 km cycling and

ming, are positively related to performance. Tanaka and Matsuura [3]

42.195 km running). The physiological characteristics of triathletes

concluded that anthropometric factors have the same degree of influ-

have been substantially reviewed [18-20]. O’Toole and Douglas [19]

ence on performance as physiological factors. Arrese and Ostariz [5]

conclude that in short-distance athletes the maximal oxygen uptake

assessed the skinfold thickness in the lower limb as positively related

(VO2max) is related to the performance as compared to elite triathBiology


Sport, Vol. 30 No4, 2013


Brunkhorst L. & Kielstein H. letes. Peak oxygen uptake (VO2peak) and ventilatory threshold (Tvent)


were found to be good predictors in cycling and running performance

Anthropometric measurements (including the height of the athletes

[20]. The triathlete needs to use the whole body for all three disci-

and controls) were performed with a non-elastic measuring tape at

plines: the upper limbs for swimming, the lower limbs for submaxi-

eight different places: circumference of the hip measured on top of

mal cycling and endurance running. Thus, it could be supposed that

the anterior superior iliac spines and the waist at the level of the

the anthropometric characteristics of a professional mono-discipline

navel, the length of the legs (measured from the greater trochanter

athlete such as a cyclist differ from those of a professional triathlete.

to the lateral malleolus), hand length (from the radio-carpal joint to

The present study compares for the first time various anthropo-

the dactylion of the left hand), shoe size and the arm span (from the

metric and other parameters (e.g. profiles of favourite training strat-

left to the right dactylion) in centimetres. Additionally, the circumfer-

egies, supportive use of psychotherapy or physiotherapy, nutrition

ence of the upper limb (measured from the acromio-clavicular joint

amenities, etc.) of male and female triathletes, male cyclists and

to the olecranon at one-third of the upper arm length) and of the thigh

male and female sportive students as controls to evaluate potential

(measured at one-third of the length between the greater trochanter

specific anthropometric profiles for these specific sports.

and the knee-joint gap) were measured. All measurements were performed by the same investigator. The investigation was performed in


accordance with the ethical standards of the Helsinki Declaration.

Subjects. We investigated two groups of male and female profes-

Participants provided oral informed consent prior to testing.

sional athletes (cyclists and triathletes) and one control group (age 18-35 years). The groups consisted of 21 international professional


elite triathletes (11 female, 10 male), 26 professional elite cyclists

Data were processed with GraphPad Prism 5.04 and analysed with

(male) and 49 active students who practise sports (26 males, 23

one-way ANOVA and Bonferroni tests. Results are presented as means

females). The triathletes were examined and interviewed at the World

± SEM and differences were regarded as statistically significant if

Cup Series 2010 (Monterrey, Mexico; Holten, Netherlands; Tiszau-


Comparison of anthropometric characteristics between professional triathletes and cyclists.

Anthropometric characteristics of athletes are considered to be an important determinant of success in sport. The aim of the present study was to comp...
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